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Transformation makes the circle bigger

Graduation Congratulations Card Color Hands

By Eamonn Ryan


Transformation takes many forms in the plumbing industry. The initiative likely to make the greatest impact – and currently receiving the lion’s share of energy – is the PIRB’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) first introduced in 2020. Even before RPL, the Black segment of PIRB membership has shown threefold growth over the past 18 months – which is measured solely against qualifications. The RPL aims to considerably increase those plumbers eligible to join PIRB.

GIZ research has shown there are more than 100 000 self-identified plumbers in the informal sector who face many challenges, requiring some easing of the barriers to entry to make it accessible. The objective of RPL is consequently to drop the barriers to entry without dropping the quality of the process. SAQA policy mandates professional bodies to have RPL routes to award professional designations, which makes it clear PIRB can set the requirements for the designation.

Lorraine Mooi, head of the Transformation Committee at both IOPSA and PIRB, outlines some of the large number of initiatives underway between the PIRB and IOPSA:

Mentorship programme – in March a mentorship pilot project was successfully piloted, with 23 mentors now holding the new Plumbing Industry Mentor Practitioner (PIMP) designation. This will primarily benefit the RPL programme, but in fact is accessible for anyone involved in one of the transformation projects. Mooi spells out the need for mentors: “We have a lot of people in the system either through the RPL or trainees who for various reasons are struggling to complete their qualification. Many have been in the plumbing industry for 20 or 30 years and never qualified as plumbers. Both PIRB and IOPSA also have various trainee programmes and they all need assistance from time to time.

Probationary Member – To further promote transformation, IOPSA has introduced an interim form of membership called the Probationary Member for businesses that don’t have, for instance, registered companies or liability insurance or even a registered plumber in their employ. In this case, the mentor can also be appointed to assist them in achieving the minimum IOPSA prerequisites.

Women in Plumbing – Mooi is also head of the Women in Plumbing organisation, which has similarly seen recent progress. “To establish greater independence, we have taken WIP out of IOPSA and registered it as an independent NPC for women only. All other transformation initiatives include women, but this one is only for women. It is currently in its formative stages, establishing partnerships with different organisations, such as Harambie. We’re starting with the GESI (Gender and Social Inclusion) programme. We’ve had interactions with FEM, government and Water Research Council among others. The main issues under discussion to find answers to are: sexual harassment; undermining of women colleagues; and lack of female-only facilities on sites. “We are launching a pledge at the end of March for all companies to sign to eradicate sexual harassment and have recourse for women should it happen.”

DSPP (Dual) apprenticeship programme – this is currently running with 300 (split 50/50 between women and men) trainee plumbers placed with various firms.

Plumbers’ Evenings – IOPSA is increasingly hosting plumber evenings in remote and informal areas to attract plumbers who previously might have felt ‘outside the fold’ or excluded from the formal activities of the industry.


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